West Africa nations meet to discuss piracy surge

Benin, Togo and Ghana begin a three-day meeting in Cotonou next week to hammer out ways to end a recent upsurge in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, an official said on Thursday.

Benin ministry of defence spokesperson Gabriel Affouda said the sub-regional talks would also bring on board experts from the United Nations, the European Union and regional bloc Ecowas.

Military and navy chiefs from the three West African countries will draw up measures to jointly combat the threat on their waters.

The small nation of Benin has recently found itself on the frontline of an intensifying battle against piracy off West Africa’s coast, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.

The IMB has registered 20 acts of piracy there since the beginning of the year, from none in 2010.

Benin’s economy relies heavily on its port activities.

Piracy attacks are also frequent in neighbouring oil-rich Nigeria, which has been invited to the meeting as a member of the 15-nation Ecowas grouping.

An oil tanker with around 25 crew members was hijacked off the coast of Nigeria early this week, the IMB said on Thursday.

Nigeria and Benin have since September launched joint naval patrols off their coasts.

The recent upsurge in pirate attacks in the West African region is threatening the maritime industry and causing concern within the international community.

The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution condemning piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and stressed the need for a global solution. — AFP

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